Harvester Ant Photo

Harvester Ant Control: Protect Your Home

Appearance

What Do Harvester Ants Look Like?
harvester ant image
Size: Worker harvester ants range from 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch in length.

Color: Different harvester ant species exhibit different colors, ranging from reddish-brown or yellow to black.

Characteristics: Each species of harvester ants has a head, antennae, thorax, abdomen and a segmented pedicel located between the thorax and abdomen. Other species-specific characteristics include the enlarged heads of workers and the presence of a psammophore, which are rows of long hair on the ventral side of the head that harvester ants use for storing soil and seeds. Not all species of harvester ants have this beard-like feature.

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Facts

  • Species: Of the 22 species of harvester ants found in the United States, only the Florida harvester ant populates the Mid-Atlantic states and other eastern regions of the country.
  • Nesting: All species of harvester ants practice the unique nesting habit of clearing the vegetation around the nest site before constructing the above-ground mound. Some species clear an area as large as 23 feet in diameter.
  • Stings: Though not aggressive by nature, the harvester ant can deliver an especially painful sting.

Food

What Do Harvester Ants Eat?
Harvester ants feed on a range of seeds. Some of the most common food sources include:

  • Ragweed
  • Crab grass
  • Rough buttonweed
  • Sedge
  • Poke weed
  • Red clover
  • Alfalfa
  • Evening primrose
  • Narrow leaf vetch
  • Croton weed

Biology

Life Cycle
Like many insects, harvester ants reach full maturity by way of complete metamorphosis.

The four developmental stages of egg, larva, pupa and adult last different amounts of time for different species.

Colonies
Workers, winged reproductives and a single queen comprise the typical harvester ant colony.

Reproductive adults swarm, mate and form new colonies any time between June and October. The pests are unusually long-lived.

Lifespan
Harvester ant colonies have been recorded to last at least 19 years, while the queens of some species live as long as 17 years.

Detection

Damaged Yards
Harvester ants are not subtle creatures. Since they feed on grass seed, colonies strip large sections of vegetation from the land around their nests.

In naturally grassy areas, a disturbance is easy to spot as a clear sign of a harvester ant infestation.

Nests
Additionally, the pests cover the nest entrance with an elaborate mound, which makes an infestation even easier to detect.

Stings
Individuals may also experience repeated and painful stings inflicted by the pests.

Problems Caused by Harvester Ants

Mounds
Although harvester ants rarely infest homes, the pests frequently construct mounds and nests:

  • On golf courses
  • In lawns
  • In open fields
  • On playgrounds

Disturbances
When mounds are disturbed, the worker ants attack by stinging repeatedly. The sting of the harvester ant induces an extremely painful and long-lasting reaction and has even been fatal to children.

Prevention Tips

  • Avoid Them: Preventing harvester ants from becoming a major problem largely consists of avoiding the pests altogether. Unless they pose a stinging threat to children or pets, the otherwise harmless insects should simply be avoided.
  • Do Not Provoke: Since harvester ants do not behave aggressively unless provoked and because their nests are usually easy to spot, individuals should have no problem preventing disturbances.

Tips for Removal From Home

Though harvester ants do not invade homes, the pests may infiltrate yards and other outdoor areas.

Baits
The use of baits helps control infestations. Harvester ants use odor trails and the orientation of the sun to locate food sources, and placing baits along the paths they travel can help keep the size of the colony in check.

Call the Professionals
Individuals suffering from a harvester ant infestation may also consider contacting a pest control professional to treat the mounds with insecticide.

Learn more about Western’s comprehensive Home Pest Control Plans.

Call for service: (800) 768-6109